What if I Have a Criminal Record?

When you are completing your FAFSA®, you will be asked whether you had a drug conviction for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. If the answer is “Yes”, your eligibility for financial aid will be in jeopardy.

Students with criminal records aren’t automatically disqualified from receiving federal aid, although there may be restrictions. The restrictions are placed on students who will be incarcerated in a federal or state institution while continuing their education. Students in such facilities are not eligible for the Pell Grant or for federal loans. Those who are in an institution other than a federal or state facility are similarly not eligible for federal loans but are eligible for the Pell Grant.

Can I qualify for financial aid with a felony?

If you have been convicted of a drug offense, sexual offense, felony, or misdemeanor, you are not eligible to receive financial aid. In fact, your eligibility might be suspended if the offense occurred while you were receiving federal student aid. You will be responsible to pay any financial aid that you may have already received during a period of ineligibility. Meaning that if you received aid for the fall semester of 2017 and were convicted around that time, you will be required to pay that money back to the federal government.

What if I am on probation or parole, can I get federal student aid?

If you are on probation or parole you may be eligible for federal student aid. Keep in mind, that if you were convicted of a drug-related offense or if you are subject to involuntary civil commitment for a sexual offense, your eligibility may be limited.

How can I become eligible for financial aid after receiving a drug conviction?

Students who take the proper actions can get on the fast track to regaining eligibility. You can obtain financial aid after receiving a drug conviction by:

  1. Completing an approved drug rehabilitation program.
  2. Completing and successfully passing two random drug tests from an approved drug rehabilitation center.

First and second-time offenders can regain FAFSA® eligibility by completing one of the requirements mentioned above. If you regain eligibility during the award year, notify your financial aid office immediately so you can get the aid you’re eligible for.

Once a student is released from prison, most of those restrictions are removed. Students are encouraged to file their FAFSA® before they are released so their aid is processed in time for them to start school.

College grants for convicted felons

Many felons and ex-offenders want to obtain grants to go to college or to start a small business. You might feel helpless thinking that you cannot qualify for this financial assistance. However, the federal and some state governments, as well as private sources, have funds set aside to help people in situations similar to yours.
Organizations such as Help For Felons and the United States Department of Labor provide assistance to those who wish to pursue higher education but have a criminal record.

If you want more information about scholarships for convicted felons, you should visit Scholarship Bee.